By Paul-Stuart Greenough
We are very pleased to have multiple-marathon runner Ben Smith working with Raise the Bar exclusively. To celebrate our new partnership, we decided to interview Ben and explain the importance of his story.
Running a marathon is tough. The idea of doing 401 of them over 401 consecutive days seems unfathomable, but that is just what Ben Smith did.
“For 20-odd years I had been living my life trying to please other people. I had no confidence or self-esteem. I would do things for you because I wanted you to like me. When I had my transient ischemic attack (TIA) I suddenly realised that I’d been living this existence that wasn’t mine.”
Ben’s honesty and frankness is what enables him to engage crowds of people – whether that be at corporate events or schools. He struggled with bullying growing up and felt unable to be his true self as an openly-gay man for years; he drank, smoked and didn’t take care of his health. His TIA “episode” triggered a realisation that things needed to change. Unsure of how to go about this, a friend asked him to join her running club. Initially “terrified and nervous” and having never run more than 50 metres before, he persuaded himself to get off the sofa and try. His confidence grew, as did his ability and within a year he had completed his first marathon.
The message that seemed to change his mindset was his own belief, as well as the people around him believing “…that I can do this”.
He decided that one wasn’t enough though, taking on the challenge of 401 in 401 days. “We wanted to do something that could help change things in the UK. Help with mental health, help with bullying.” After 284 marathons in equal consecutive days, Ben suffered an injury to his back, needing time to heal. “That was the most difficult thing to overcome.” After recovering from his injury, to make up for lost time and distance he took on multiple ultra-marathons – which are runs much further than a regular marathon.
The beneficiaries of the 401 Challenge – Stonewall and Kidscape – are organisations close to Ben’s heart, with over £300,000 raised to help them during the challenge.
Ben is off-the-cuff in his approach to speaking, lacking in the self-consciousness he felt years ago. Using no slides or gimmicks, he stands there and talks. A simple approach that manages to hold an audience’s attention through Ben’s detailed and truthful storytelling.
His recovery time from the more-than-a-year spent running has been long, both mentally and physically, but he is getting back to normality.
“I’m now happy… but I’m still not an incredible athlete.”
Ben’s next massive challenge will be revealed early next year, so be sure to follow Raise the Bar and the 401 Challenge on Facebook and Twitter.
Ben’s book ‘401: The Man who Ran 401 Marathons in 401 Days and Changed His Life Forever’ is out now. To listen to his incredible story and learn more about self-motivation and mental strength, you can book him for an event here.